Parting at the city gates
spoken gratitude and warm embrace
we toil onward drawn from home
the sea before us broad alone
There have been various past calls for me to divide my daily narrative into the barest detail. And while
I would never dream of succumbing to the will of anyone, suggestions, and criticisms, can be thought
invoking. The passage above says it all, succinct, robust, yet very small.
Photos for the day feature another master angler and long time Royal Star friend Dr. Stuart Exall. To
Stuart we are inexpressibly grateful for his ceaseless positive demeanor, and sincere promotion of our
fishery to the world. It is because of Stuart that we have the acquaintance of the Thai anglers; and
because of this our knowledge of fishing, and tackle, has broadened immensely.
During this voyage Stuart again had the pleasure of introducing many veteran long range anglers to the
equipment favored by the "Thai Contingent". Drawing side glances and a few raised eyebrows at first, many
of the long time veterans were amazed, as was I originally, at the effectiveness of this equipment that
is totally foreign, and completely contrary, to the west coast idea of what is practical for catching
giant yellowfin tuna.
Seeing is believing though and several of the uber veterans took a turn behind the "tiny" gear to
discover that the impossible is not. As master anglers they felt and understood the dynamics immediately
and recognized that such equipment is far from ridiculous gimmickry; it is effective in the right hands
at the right time.
As well on this note I assign much credit to Greg DeFelice who also fished the jigging type tackle
putting on a clinic in the process. One of Greg's deuces, a 218 if I remember correctly, was landed in
less than fifteen minutes using a single speed, relatively small jigging reel and tiny little rod; the
pressure one can apply with these rigs is mind boggling.
Back to Stuart however we are tremendously fortunate to have him on board any Royal Star voyage as a
positive influence and fantastic angler. Once again Stuart demonstrated his easy going style and obvious
experience landing three fat deuces including this third place jackpot winner at 246.2.
So much for the shortened version...
A somewhat bumpy ride toward lands end did nothing to dampen enthusiasm or draw down the exultant
atmosphere as these veteran anglers recognized, and celebrated, this voyage, this catch, as one in five
hundred; perhaps even more. In fact, while there were a number of giant hauls of two hundred pound
yellowfin in 2005, and a few more in the years that followed, I don't recall that any of them came from
the Revilla region. In light of that notion this catch may be more than a one in five hundred; it could
be, and very likely is, a new measure; the new measure.
But, we make no mistake in believing that such a standard will not be matched or exceeded in time; sooner
than later I expect. For no other reason than the advances in equipment and tackle these fantastic
numbers on giant yellowfin tuna boated are the new normal. All we have to do is get close to them, to the
ones that want to bite, and the rest falls into place. Where we experienced numerous like opportunities
in the past, the catching was not so reliable. On a good day, because of the short comings in our
equipment alone, we landed only around twenty percent of what was hooked; now it is closer to seventy or
Between the short, Blackwater, fluorocarbon top shots, that entice even the most fickle tuna to bite, and
the rod and reel combos perfectly matched to absorb shock and deliver power, anglers grind these big fish
up in unbelievably short periods of time. It is not that the effort required is less, it is that the
effort required is now correctly focused through equipment perfectly designed and matched for the
challenge. From a guy who has been on the deck of long range vessels targeting these giant yellowfin for
twenty five years it is quite a revolution; and admittedly sweet revenge. For as many huge yellowfin that
I have seen escape during my tenure as Captain, for as many agonizing heart breaks I, and my anglers have
suffered, there is a long time coming before the score is settled. As of now they are still way ahead.
We did a fine job of attempting to balance the equation on this run though. The main reasons of course
being the quantity of fish available, and good timing. As mentioned above the technical aspects we have
down; none of that matters however if the fish aren't around or don't bite. So in this case I assign the
credit, and my unending gratitude, to them - the tuna that is; but also to this exceptional group of
Photos for the day feature more of the East Coast representation. Greg De Felice, who has joined us on a
couple of prior tagging voyages, returned to try his hand at the previously elusive 200 pound yellowfin.
Among the many compliments I can give to Greg I am compelled to mention his extraordinary skill as a
fisherman. He is the real deal demonstrating mastery over every gear type, in every situation, always
producing at advance levels. And in doing so he does not miss the most important aspect of having fun. In
fact that is what he embraces most. Greg ended up with not only his first giant yellowfin over two
hundred this voyage, he captured his first four over two hundred! Congratulations from all of us at Royal
Photo number two features another East Coaster, and first time Royal Star angler, Billy Messler with one
of his deuces landed early on in the voyage. Not his first long range voyage, after this run Billy has
now found home. He fit in with this group like any other veteran absolutely stoked to be fishing with
fisherman, among fishermen. It is not something to take for granted as we are all not the same. We are
thankful that Billy discovered this on Royal Star, and look forward to many more voyages to come!
Well we almost had a good trip falling just short of our perpetually fluid goal line in the eleventh
hour. It could have been fantastic, could have been a winner, but now we travel northward harboring pangs
of accomplishments only the future can yield. Thirty nine yellowfin over the two hundred pound mark, a
wealth of 160 - 195's, a slew of Wahoo, and another boat load of tuna from 50 - 180 pounds released; if
we had just landed that fortieth two hundred pounder we could have held our head high.
That's about as far as I can go with that line of humor - I am joking of course. Nothing but elation and
sincere appreciation describes the prevailing sentiment on board. We finished with another strong predawn
hit on jumbos landing four of six in addition to a small bounty of "releasers". Then, after the big ones
were carefully arranged in the final RSW tank to make full use of the limited remaining space, we called
capacity sufficient to accommodate perhaps a couple more deuces and a few more "skin".
Opening the door for a little more "skinnin'" for the very top of the last RSW well, the temptation to
mete out some justice, to effect a reckoning in response to the rampant thievery and lawlessness of the
past few days, was irresistible to a few handfuls of anglers eager to grind the axe. Not surprisingly the
"skinnies" caught on rather quick, but their numbers were definitely reduced to the extreme satisfaction
of everyone; after the last two days in particular there was no sympathy among us; the thieving bastards
got what they deserved.
After the limited slaughter, with hold space rapidly dwindling, a couple more hours were assigned to the
pursuit of the last jumbo; the fortieth deuce that would catapult this voyage into the next realm, or at
least round out this spectacular catch on an even number. As it turned out enthusiasm for the idea was
extremely limited - no one was feeling gypped or unsated; all of us were more than ready to take the
superb fortune already realized and head for home. A couple more one hundred pound class tuna fell for
our offerings, were wedged in the last gaps to be found, and the trip was called; and labeled a pure
success! The fishing did the talking this time; what a pleasure.
Photos for the day rightly feature long time veteran angler Kevin Leong whom I first met and fished with
at least twenty four years prior on the old RP. Kevin's skills as a live bait fisherman are founded on an
obvious passion for fishing that has placed him on the peak with his very few peers. Needless to say
those skills were put to good use during this run as Kevin landed several good ones including this 279
that took the titles of largest, and last jumbo of the trip. The first shot captures the intensity of the
last moments when the fish was a only a few feet from gaff while the second shot features an elated
victor; a job well done!
How about this for a dilemma: following another fine morning hit that included
four more giants, we were completely shut down from our tuna fishing by
relentless, ravenous wahoo. Chunks, any form of live bait, and any type kite
presentation resulted in the almost immediate loss of one's hook followed by
what became quite the variety of unflattering insults and hand gestures. What a
pain in the neck, and wallet, as the stripped marauders accounted for an
impressive tally of equipment by day's end.
I suppose this scenario may raise the question of why we weren't fishing with
wire? That approach would certainly have been more productive. The short answer
is we have enough, and we are still guarding remaining space in the final RSW
tank with optimism - the final morning just may produce another hit on jumbos,
and we will be ready to maximize the opportunity.
So from mid morning through late afternoon we took a break of sorts releasing
wahoo and the occasional 50 - 120# tuna that beat the slippery thieves to the
punch. More eclectic gear choices were embraced and the light line rigs were
broken out as we engaged in variety fishing for the pure fun of it. What a
Now the time has arrived - the last hurrah; the final morning with new goal; a
new gold ring within reach, urging us on. Just one more, then another, then a
few more; the perpetual drive makes for fleeting satisfaction, but this one may
last a little longer.
Two photos today the first of which features long time Royal Star supporter Bob
"Turbo" Ryan and his 251 coming over the rail. Bob suffered a terrible injury to
his winding hand only four months ago but rehabilitated himself through sheer
determination and uncontainable will. His dedication paid big dividends as he
made this incredible voyage, and has thus far landed three over the deuce, over
extremely challenging odds.
Photo number two features blast from the past Blaine "Maximus" DeBrower who
hasn't had the chance to fish with us since the Clipperton voyage in 2004. We
used to chide Blaine relentlessly about the disproportionate number of 185 -
198# yellowfin he landed never quite achieving the 200 pound goal. All in good
fun of course but the story continued this voyage as Blaine again landed 180's -
190's for the first five days while plenty over the mark came over the rail to
his left and his right. After missing on one good opportunity a few days back
Blaine finally had his vengeance - in this life. Here he is rightfully exulting
in his triumph; this one was well earned.
We slacked off here today with a meager four over the two hundred mark deflating our bubble
to more "normal" proportions. Of course there were a few other chances we failed to make
good on, but the vast majority of missed opportunities over the past three days were the
result of hooks pulling; nothing to be done about that, and no use lamenting. We
begrudgingly accept the inevitable percentage of hooks tearing loose actually finding a
little solace in loss of a big fish to this calamity. A pulled hook assigns no blame, it is
simply poor luck.
But presently there is really no poor luck here to speak of. This has been exceptional
fishing, with exceptional fishermen, in perhaps the most exceptional giant yellowfin tuna
arena on the planet. We are all smiles and rightly so. With two more days to target giant
yellowfin tuna in this heavenly destination we are experiencing a rare level of fishing
bliss. Everything a fisherman can ask for is presently here and now. We are living the
Speaking of living the dream photo number one today features long range legend Garry "Big
Fish" Sato in fighting form, pulling on a bona fide giant on the bow. The man talks the
talk then walks the walk among the best; his products are field tested, proven, and on the
cutting edge. There is a reason we call him "Big Fish" - he gets 'em.
And speaking of gettin' 'em, among this veteran group I almost can not utter that phrase
without mentioning Jack West. After fishing with Jack for at least seventeen years I never
cease to be amazed by the consistency with which he captures trophy yellowfin in these
waters. He is uncanny, with a knack for fishing the right bait at the right time on the
right gear. As for the other half of the battle again Jack's results speak for themselves.
An incredible angler, and even more incredible individual, here is Jack with one of his
three beauties of the trip - so far. It is paradise here at preset - fisherman's paradise.
Add eight more over the deuce to the tally and a wealth of others that didn't make the grade. Throw in an
all out mid morning through late afternoon offensive by the "skinnies" and it made for an action packed
day. In fact that aspect of the day became a real nuisance for dedicated tuna anglers who cycled through
numerous hooks and rigging combinations thankfully with their sense of humor intact. As good as things
have been going thus far it is easy to understand why. This is shaping up to be quite the all around long
range adventure. And it is far from over.
The fish gods have been mighty gracious and conditions have followed suit. Needless to say we are primed
for as much as these bruisers want to give as we push into day four on the outside prudently allocating
hold space to the biggest and the best. In accordance with our responsibility as sportsmen we are
releasing the smaller models for the obvious reason.
The stud of the day award rightfully goes to another veteran from days of old Chris Pauly who established
an afternoon roll culminating in the successful capture of three over the two hundred mark. What a day.
And when one mentions Mr. Pauly in the context of fishing his friend of over forty years Dave Sazegar,
a.k.a. "Sawzall", can not be far behind. Photos today feature Chris with one of his fatties balanced on
the rail and Dave pulling on one of his two deuces up the side.
The stage was set and we most certainly made good with another nine over the two hundred mark in addition
to a handful of 185 - 197's. Throw in a couple more handfuls of 100 - 150's, and nice shot of "skin", and
a picture perfect day of this style fishing was the result. It most certainly was; especially for this
group of anglers whom are particularly well suited to this exact scenario.
But such would be the case for any and everyone venturing a giant yellowfin tuna voyage at this time of
year. By no means is this fishery limited to those "in the know", or exclusive to anglers boasting
extensive angling experience. In fact we find that novice anglers perform exceptionally well in these
zones, and almost always end up catching their share; or at least realizing a proportional number of
opportunities. Once the giant is on the line the rest is easy - relatively speaking.
Case in point would be first time long trip angler Brian Sherman making this voyage with his good friend
Doug Taylor, whom many will recognize from many previous Royal Star voyages. Though an experienced angler
on the local front Brian awaited this voyage with a mix of massive excitement and at least minor
trepidation. The thought of battling a giant yellowfin, of being driven to one's knees by the spirited
bruisers, elicits the same reaction in almost everyone entering "The Show" their first time.
Brian's results today spoke a familiar story, and advanced the narrative I share with so many tentative
anglers considering their first giant yellowfin voyage - he book ended his day with two hundred thirty
pounders; two thirty four and two thirty three if I remember correctly. And while achieving this coveted
long range feat Brian performed with valor - like an old pro. He put his back into it, used the rail to
his advantage, cranked down the drag, and reefed on the beasts with authority. The results speak for
Today's photos first feature Brian and Doug with a pair of deuces landed side by each. Of all the long
range moments this has to be among the finest. Two good friends venturing a long range trip together then
realizing the moment they came for simultaneously. To borrow the ridiculously over used old cliche - "it
doesn't get any better than this". Photo number two features an anglers eye view seconds before crewman
Blake Wasano drives the gaff home in a two hundred twenty two pound giant.
Wow! There aren't many ways to look at this outcome other than the "spectacular" I was
aiming for; superior is perhaps an even better term. No doubt there were a few indicators
yesterday suggesting potential, so I can't say that I am in any way surprised, but still -
Ten fish over "the deuce" was the final tally with plenty more in the 100 - 185 pound
range. Between the catching, and the inevitable casualties, we had our share of chances.
This was a good day of fishing; no pining here, no longing for what may be or could have
been. A rare occasion I would call it; near perfection. And the best part about it is that
we are just getting started. Strategically one would be hard pressed to craft a better
formula for success. Now we'll see if the fish follow through. Around here the complete
unpredictability of fishing from one day to the next always tempers our aspirations of
grandeur; too many lessons have been learned to let those dogs run wild.
But, nothing can subtract from this day's success that occurred in the face of nagging
attraction from very good fishing elsewhere. It could just have easily gone the other way,
but there is a undeniable high note of satisfaction from the results of our decision to
stay put and search under every stone before moving on. Patience, that I am famous for not
exercising, indeed does sometimes pay.
There were plenty of great fishing stories from the day to share. Ultra long range veteran
Bob Pound, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on my first long trip to the Revillas as
Captain in February 1991, achieved a personal first during our morning hit. Of the many
voyages Bob has ventured to the Revillas and Clipperton he has never landed two yellowfin
over the two hundred mark in a single day. Today not only did Bob land two over the mark,
he did it in two consecutive baits. Back to back deuces is nothing to sneeze at, no matter
what level of experience one boasts in this fishery, and Bob, as evidenced in one of
today's photos, was mighty pleased with his long awaited accomplishment.
Photo number two features another pair of deuces, and again ultra long range veterans,
Robert Hirsch a.k.a. "Hot Bobby", and Kevin Leong. It goes without saying that we are now
fixed in this zone tomorrow and beyond. Why go anywhere else?
Funny how the standards float from season to season - with this year's being particularly
high. At the end of the day I marveled at my, and probably my only, lack of complete
satisfaction with our results. The last run to Clipperton, and many previous voyages to the
Revilla region this season were simply too good. And, the catching presently taking place a
few more miles to the west most certainly plays into the equation - a classic "grass is
always greener" scenario.
But any day one seriously considers over one hundred Wahoo, a couple of handfuls of 120 -
170# yellowfin tuna, and plenty more than a couple of handfuls of 60 - 90# tuna as mediocre
requires some serious self introspection. This was a good day of fishing. In heavenly calm
seas, distributed from before dawn to after dusk, we remained engaged and busy working an
ocean burgeoning with opportunity.
However, there was a distinct lack of bigger tuna sign, and the majority of the tuna we did
locate were reluctant to bite. As most of what we did encounter was in the 50 - 80 pound
range this was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, but it spoke to a bigger theme. Colder
water, unusually cold for this time of year, is presently dominant, and is at least
suggestive of why this zone is a little off kilter.
Going back to our results however one may wonder what I could possibly be thinking. A good
day of fishing and I present the area as off kilter? Yes that is the fishermans dilemma. It
is a rare occasion, relative to the overall time we spend out here, when all things align
to perfection. And it is this perpetual reach for the gold ring, the ceaseless neck
stretching for the dangling carrot, that produces the best of the best. Okay is Okay, but
it is far from spectacular. If we viewed it any other way, if we settled for mediocrity or
just good enough, we'd be among the easily forgotten of the past - and present.
Taking this into account tomorrow will undoubtedly call on the highest degree of vigilance
and awareness. I feel a strong pull from the west, almost magnetic, but heaven forbid hasty
judgment leaves something worthy behind.
Photo today features angler Mike Hein, Capt. Brian Sims, and Crewman Steve Gregonis with
Mike's mid day one hundred seventy pound "sardine eater".
No tall tales today as we logged a half day of fishing, and catching, without
landing anything of real consequence. Plenty of action on 50 - 80# yellowfin,
and smaller, kept the morning lively but the ones we were after no showed
leaving us little alternative other than to move on. No surprise though; this
was more of a pit stop, a long shot if you will, in route to our real
And in beautiful weather I must admit the lack of deliverance today did little
to quash any optimism toward things to come. Between the perfect load of bait,
seasoned group of anglers, and a wealth of time before us there was no need to
despair. We are in good shape, in every respect.
Beyond the azure plain chimes the Clarion bell - distinct, historic, and ripe to
satisfy. Not that we are expecting anything easy, or really anything at all, but
knowing the history, recent and distant, suggests opportunity. And that is all
we ask for - a chance.
I'll get on the ball with some photos tomorrow - if we get the chance.
Quite the odd twist today as we could have well been fishing 1800 miles to the southeast based on the
results and signs we saw. Sailfish - schools, individuals, and gaggles that did very little to ignite the
fire in any of us. They were pretty, and a few incidentals that were hooked put on a fine show, but in
this setting they are essentially useless, and are afforded little regard. It was their lucky day
however: we liberated every sailfish landed resisting the urge to render them down for release in a more
locally effective form.
I suppose it may be a disappointment to some but I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to document the
sailfish extravaganza with a selection of fine images. In all we departed our initial destination
satisfied with the knowledge that there is no need to return while extracting at least some good in the
form of a brimming load of local, easily caught, big baits. To say we are loaded for bear would be an
understatement. All tanks are jugged, the weather is ideal, and we are well prepared. Now it is a simple
matter of finding, then catching, the right ones.
A seamless transition from leisure to action as we embarked a purposeful, experienced group
of anglers of whom all but one have previously graced the deck of Royal Star. Following
departure there was a definite flurry of rigging action but the pervasive sentiment heeded
the timeless young and old bull adage as the majority elected to relax, settle in , and
unwind; although I have to relate that at least a few individuals began unwinding, perhaps
even became unwound, before we ever arrived.
Ah the draw of the tropical sun and the warm sand; the radiant Agave vampires patrolling
the shore; such stark contrast, such immediate transition, so easily manifests the best and
the opposite. Such access, and liberty, occasionally elicits the unexpected from even the
conservative. And boy what a handful when it does. But all in good fun; this isn't our
first time visiting a foreign port, and provides an explanation for our ceaseless urgency
Into the setting sun we sailed underway for the long awaited fishing portion of this
voyage. I haven't engaged yet in too much floral waxing but with any more travel time it
was certain to come. Grateful to be fishing soon look for tomorrow's report with opening
details. We will be looking, fishing, and with any luck catching in the afternoon and
beyond. Photos will soon follow.
Again an uneventful day of travel providing little inspiration for literary flourish. There were plenty
of micro features typically veiled in conditions other than flat calm, but the overall theme of green,
frigid water, and scant sign of life did little to generate interest in anything other than covering
On schedule and keyed in for the show tomorrow we await the second beginning with enthusiasm. Another day
will pass before the real goods begin. I can't wait.
If I had it to report, or write about, I would. But today was one of those pleasant passages that became
more so as the sun passed its zenith and our recent work proved sound. Regardless of the elevated
confidence we have in our work and ability, it takes a while to whittle down the edge and acclimate to
entirely new sounds.
Sensory overdrive best describes Capt. Sims and my present state of being. And though even by normal
standards this is not an uncommon atmosphere on the bridge, this is an extreme version. But, with every
mile passed the intensity is subsiding. Fair weather, good traveling conditions, and above average
velocity has us well within expected arrival parameters in Cabo on Wednesday. The only complaint I can
muster is a total lack of fish sign while passing through the famed "Yellowtail Triangle" throughout the
afternoon. No fish for us - none. Perhaps tomorrow will offer a better selection as we slide over the
ridge in full search mode.
We begin on a high note - new hearts to rejuvenate confidence and ability while resuming our coveted
fishing routine. Loaded with primo sardines and greeted by a sea state suddenly becalmed, the harbingers
of success heralded our departure. Of course we engaged in a few standard first day back on the water
petty mechanical skirmishes, such is the inevitable fact after shutting the boat down for over thirty
days, but the big gear is in perfect working order, and we steam south in high spirits relieved to back
in fishing mode.
They are calling, of that I am convinced, now it is simply a matter of piecing the puzzle together to
coax more than a few on board. The first leg of this journey carries us to the lovely "Lands End" where
we are scheduled to meet our group of serious anglers on the 18th before sallying forth for eleven
fishing days. For now the days consist of running with perhaps a quick stop here and there to test the
waters in the interest of sustenance. Needless to say following just over a month at the pier the fish
larder is bare. We aim to rectify that tomorrow and beyond however, committing at least a few minutes to
the pursuit of our bread and butter Seriola Dorsalis, better known as yellowtail.
Reports continue from here forth documenting the progress of this maiden voyage; of a kind.
And the last of the mechanical photos are presented today with the finished product ready for service. Desiring reliable, long term mechanical stability for Royal Star, we believe we made the right choice - this time. Now powered by Caterpillar C-18's, with ZF 350 transmissions, Royal Star is set up to provide many years of dependable operation. As long as we do our part, she will do the same. Now it is back to fishing and "normal" reporting. Tomorrow we depart on our maiden voyage with the new machinery. Prospects are strong and our departing weather appears to be fine following today's big blow. We will load gear and stores today in preparation for an early morning departure tomorrow. Needless to say we are more than ready to make the switch from turning wrenches to turning reel handles; and how.
It has been a few days of relative quiet as we tidy up our final projects and prepare Royal Star again for what we live to do - go fishing. Just a few more days and we are back at it departing Sunday on our scheduled fly down/fly back voyage to the Revilla region and beyond. Today's images feature Randy and Paul demonstrating a small portion of their contributions to the success of the recent re-powering of Royal Star. Tomorrow's report will feature a couple of shots of the finished product; now she is officially ready!
A few shots today of the finished product prior to what became successful a successful sea trial. As one can see the engine manufacturer's take the performance of their products seriously with the full compliment of test points covered both maunally and electronically (only about a third of the equipment used is visible here). Less the spider web of wires and boxes of gauges our new and improved machinery space cleaned up quite nicely with the main engine change. Long time Royal Star customers will definitely find a new tone when we are underway as these new Cat C18's are throaty to say the least.
Aside from a few loose ends we are again ready for business preparing for the upcoming voyage on the 15th with a good, long test run prior to our ultimate departure. Rest assured these babies will be shook out and well tested before we cast off committed.
I'll send a more shots over the next few days of the project in progress. For now enjoy these of the finished product.
We're just about ready to fire 'em up giving us plenty of time to iron out any snags, sea trial to the satisfaction of the engine manufacturer and Coast Guard, then take a short shake down cruise before departing on our next voyage on the 15th. All's well as the project proceeds. Today's photos document the progression of our efforts; in one form or another everyone participates.
Photos for the next few days may have the deja vu element but the colors, at the very least, are obviously different. The characters are definitely the same though, with an admitted exponential number of years, and grey hair, added by events during the prior three. Right now though, with the ten ton white elephant off our backs, we are more than ready to get back to fishing. But before that happens we have a few more wrenches to turn. For those who enjoy the mechanical side of things I will continue along this trend detailing our progress. Have a fine Sunday!